PBS maps finally emerge; permits to go?

PBS network maps finally published, while the NTC flags scrapping vehicle permits

After months of delays, most states have now decided which routes transport operators can run higher productivity so-called SMART vehicles.

And the National Transport Commission (NTC) has flagged further reform to the performance-based standards (PBS) scheme that could see state-based vehicle permits scrapped.

The NTC has today published the routes on its website which map road access granted to certain classes of vehicles under the PBS regime.

State road agencies were asked to submit the routes as early as January but have failed to do so until now.

Industry has been critical of the delay, with a number of PBS vehicles being approved for operation but uncertainty over which routes they could operate on.

Tasmania and Victoria are now the only states yet to submit their routes.

The NTC says the maps provide guidance for transport operators in planning PBS applications, but access to the network remains dependent on approval of the vehicle design and permits issued by states and territories.

Applications for road access outside the published network maps are subject to route assessments and will be considered by states and territories on a case-by-case basis.

NTC Chief Executive Nick Dimopoulos calls it an initial step in the PBS reform process, which was signed off by state transport ministers last October.

"The maps are a starting point to identify and address the gaps and mismatches on the existing national road network and move toward a more integrated and productive transport system," he says.

But the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), while welcoming the release of the maps, says it’s concerned about what it calls limited gains for multi-combination vehicles under the PBS classification networks.

PBS allows SMART vehicles to access a suitable road network based on the vehicle’s ability to stop, turn and travel safely without damaging roads or bridges. The vehicle’s performance is linked to road network access; the better it performs the more roads it can operate on.

Better certainty of road access and more consistent decision-making were key issues identified by a PBS industry focus group meeting in August, outcomes from which will inform a review of the PBS scheme announced by the NTC.

A regulatory impact statement in 2009 will incorporate outcomes from the PBS review, including a proposal to replace vehicle permits with regulations.

"The NTC is committed to ensuring PBS meets the needs of industry," Dimopoulos says.

"The review is an opportunity for this important COAG reform to reach its full productivity and road safety potential."

PBS Network Classification Maps: Click here

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